MEMORANDUM ON FINGERPRINTING AND THE ACQUISITION
OF AN AUTOMATED FINGERPRINT IDENTIFICATION SYSTEM (AFIS)
1. The Immigration and Nationality Directorate
(IND) has routinely fingerprinted all asylum seekers and certain
other specific categories of immigration offenders since 1993,
the purpose being to try and satisfactorily establish the identity
of those encountered and to prevent multiple applications and
fraudulent claims for benefit support.
2. A manual database was established in
the Asylum Fingerprint Bureau (AFB) and fingerprint experts were
recruited from New Scotland Yard to run the Bureau and carry out
fingerprint verifications for IND. With time and the increasing
numbers of asylum seekers arriving in the United Kingdom, however,
AFB was overwhelmed and no longer able to cope with the demand
placed upon it. The current backlog of fingerprint forms for processing
runs to around 35,000 and routine verification confirming a match
can run to five months. The introduction of further legislation
later this year, allowing for the fingerprinting of additional
non-asylum categories of individuals, will increase the pressure
on the current system. The system was outdated and inefficient
and a solution had to be found to the problem.
3. In February 1999, the Immigration and
Asylum Fingerprint (IAF) Project Team was established and tasked
with identifying just such a solution. Automated Fingerprint Identification
Systems (AFIS) are currently in operation worldwide. This offered
the most likely solution to overcome the difficulties facing the
AFB and to enable IND to move away from the capture of fingerprint
data by the ink and paper method and to establish an electronic
4. The IAF Project Team employed the services
of an external consultant, an expert in AFIS technology. A fingerprint
specialist was also brought in and along with two experienced
immigration personnel work began on identifying the most viable
system for IND to procure.
5. As the Metropolitan Police were already
developing their own National AFIS, being introduced throughout
England and Wales at the present time, the project team established
points of contact within that organisation. The Police Information
Technology Organisation (PITO) and the fingerprint bureau in New
Scotland Yard gave valuable advice and guidance on procurement
of a new system. That liaison continues to this day and the NAFIS
project team has also liased closely with IND. A visit was also
made to Surrey police to study their new AFIS in operation.
6. Having identified that AFIS was the way
forward, the project team had to try and configure IND's requirement.
Around 50 per cent of all fingerprints taken within the United
Kingdom are taken at the Asylum Screening Unit (ASU) in Croydon.
This is where the majority of asylum seekers go to claim asylum.
The remainder of the data is captured at the major ports around
the country and additionally from those individuals fingerprinted
by enforcement officers in the field. The project team recommended
that each required a slightly different solution and that establishing
the central system and database was the priority. Installation
of the remainder of the system would be phased in when the central
operation was fully functional.
7. The following is an outline of how the
project team envisages the new system will be configured:
Livescan machines will be introduced to the
ASU in Croydon
(Livescan is the method of capturing fingerprint
data without the use of ink and paper. Data is captured through
placing the fingers on an optical scanner. This is transmitted
to the central database for automatic search and depending on
the demand on the system at any particular time of day, searches
should take no more than a few minutes.)
The central database will be situated in AFB.
AFB will conduct verifications of any matches.
The 16 major ports around the country will continue
to fingerprint by the ink and paper method. They will, however,
transmit that data electronically to the central database by flatbed
scanner linked to a local workstation. Searches will take no more
than a few minutes.
(To justify Livescan at the major ports we had,
among other factors, to demonstrate that they would give value
for money. Given the cost£30,000 to £50,000 eachand
the fact that even the busiest port fingerprints a daily average
of only 20 individuals, no case could be made for their installation.)
AFB will conduct verifications on any matches
and notify the port.
To cover the remaining smaller ports and Local
Enforcement Offices (LEOs), 82 mobiles units will be supplied.
These will enable officers to capture two prints for electronic
checking with the central database. The mobile connection will
be through either a laptop or mobile telephone solution.
In the event of a possible match or where fingerprints
would normally be stored, all 10 fingerprints must be captured
and transmitted to AFB.
8. Following the production of a Business
Case, the IAF Project Board gave approval to proceed to procurement.
This process began in October 1999. By March 2000 the number of
potential suppliers to submit full proposals to supply a new system
had reduced to three. Best and Final Offers (BAFOs) are due to
be received by 8 May and following evaluation and selection of
the successful supplier, contract award will take place on 22
9. The first hardware is expected in Croydon
by mid June and full implementation should be complete between
December 2000 and March 2001.
10. In evaluating AFIS, the project team
has liaised closely with European partners, visiting systems in
operation in Belgium, Norway, Italy and Finland. Site visits have
also taken place to France and Switzerland and close contacts
have been established with the technical engineers working on
the EURODAC project. In addition, visits have been made to Ohio
and California, meeting with the Bureau of Criminal Identification
and Investigation (BCI) and the Anaheim Police Department respectively.